By REY C. LACHICA
(Shabab Al Ahli Club)
9 p.m. – Mighty Sports vs AlWahda (Syria)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – What will you think of the outcome of the game when an11-day-old team collide with a battle-tested pro club?
While it was a close call, it was Mighty Sports which emerged a proud 96-89 winner over the Lebanese club team Homenetmen in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship Sunday night before a largely cheering Filipino crowd at the Shabab Al Ahli Club here.
And Mighty Sports did it with main star – NBA veterar Lamar Odom – spending more time on the bench than on the playing-court for the second straight game.
With the former LA Lakers star still struggling to figure out how he can recover his old brilliance, Ginebra resident import Justin Brownlee and NBA veteran Randolph Morris took it upon themselves to deliver the desired numbers expected from them as Mighty Sports rolled to its third straight win in Group B elims of the 10-team tournament.
The team co-owned by Alex and Caesar Wongchuking and backed by SMDC, Go For Gold, Oriental Group and Healthcube takes a break Monday with coach Charles Tiu likely to celebrate a little for the team’s gritty performance.
“We’re a young team in a sense na we haven’t been together for so long, but I like the composure they showed,” said Tiu. “That’s why at stretches, even when they (Lebanese) made runs, I just let them play.”
“I want them to grow up, because later in the tournament, we’re gonna face games like this, so we have to know how to win in these types of situations, so this was a good test for us,” he added.
It was indeed a big game for Mighty Sports as Fil-Ams Jeremiah Gray and Jason Brickman and UP star Juan Gomez de Liano also made good account of themselves on the night Odom laid another big fat egg.
Described by coach Jong Uichico as the younger version of Rain or Shine guard Gabe Norwood, Gray shared the high scoring honors with Morris by banging in 24 points each.
Brickman was a joy to watch down the stretch as he ran the offense with almost surgical-like precision much and finished with 12 points and five assists although in the eyes of his teammates he did more than that.
Though he struggled at times in the face of their rivals’ rugged defense, Brownlee collected 19 points, including four straight charities in last 20 seconds.
Mighty Sports’ win not only negate the 42-point explosion of Lebanese League MVP Walter Hodge, but also put itself in a strong position to face either the No. 3 or No. 4 teams in Group A.
Other games saw Beirut (Lebanon) streaking to its second straight win with a 91-81decision over Sale of Morocco and Al Riyadi – also of Lebanon – beating Jordan national team, 81-68 in Group A action and Syria’s Al Wahda debuting in Group B with a 92-57 thumping of American University in Dubai.
MIGHTY 96 – Morris 24, Gray 24, Brownlee 19, Gomez de Liaño 11, Brickman 10, Adams 8, Odom 0, Manuel 0, Gutang 0, Santillan 0, Banal 0, Rike 0.
HOMENETMEN 89 – Hodge 42, Rustom 11, Edevbesha 11, Johnson 10, Aboud 8, Ziada 5, Hadidan 2, Zeinoun 0, Estafan 0, Ketenjian 0
Quarters: 25-18, 51-44, 77-63, 96-89.